Heading north from the mummies at Kabayan our next point of call on our North Luzon adventure was the sleepy rural town of Sagada.
Sagada is known for its hanging coffins and caves and being that I am oddly obsessed with death and how it is treated by cultures, the excitement of seeing coffins hanging from cliff faces was more than I could stand. It’s also the place where I did my first actual hiking of the trip…and I gleefully swallow my words.
The tribes around Sagada have animistic beliefs and they believe that to bury the body in the ground is to trap its spirit. So to give the spirit the best possible chance of escaping they suspend coffins from cliff faces and the bodies are not mummified, just entombed. It’s pretty cool stuff. In order to be buried on the cliff you need to sacrifice 20 pigs and 60 chickens so only the most senior tribal elders get the priviledge.
In order to get up close to the coffins we took a 2 hour walk through Echo Valley. It was hot, sticky, muddy and slippery and I fell on my arse more than once. It was around the second fall that I realised that someone as clumsy as me can not afford to take their eyes off the trail for even a second. And what’s the point of hiking if you can’t at least look around you and enjoy the scenery?
So here’s when I had my epiphany. I don’t like hiking. In fact, I might even go so far as to say that I loathe it. All I do when I’m hiking is stare at the ground praying not to fall over.
I wanted to break up with hiking, but I’d committed to the stupid hiking holiday, so I made peace with it for the time being.
The other cool thing to do around Sagada is the Sumaging Cave. The cave is deep, and incredibly dark, and sticky, and full of bats – so far none of this is surprising or out of the ordinary – but somehow I didn’t think of any of this stuff when I committed to exploring the cave.
And then it hit me half way down, that I was rather deep and in the pitch black (except for a flickering lamp), and I burst into tears. Full on panic-attack tears. Like a big cry baby.
Luckily I picked myself back up and had an amazing time. Halfway down you take off your shoes and explore the rest of the cave barefoot. It was pretty cool…even the part where you have to abseil down an incline, which I did with little thought for how I was going to get back up!
I emerged from the cave two hours later exhausted from climbing over slippery rocks, with god-knows what on my hands, but pleased as punch that I made it.
If you want to see more photos, check out my facebook photo album http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=189510&id=565144918&l=a402e1e50f